By Celine Klosterman
Their first rule is that members must own a green hat. And wear it.
Not that all of the roughly 30 women in the Green Hat Society don a cap at every monthly luncheon or charitable activity. But showing pride in their Irish heritage was a founding principle for the four members of St. Patrick Parish in Melrose who formed the group in 2005.
“We call Melrose Iowa’s little Ireland,” said Sherry Hannam. “All the streets have Irish names, and we have a Blarney Stone replica in the middle of town.”
At the suggestion of hat aficionado Joan Brubaker, the two women and Erma McGee and Joni Navin first wore green hats to a concert by Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell five years ago. Since then, the group has expanded to include women from nearby towns such as Albia, Centerville and Chariton.
Members do a kind deed each month, such as planting a flower garden in Melrose, donating Christmas gifts to families in need, painting posts at St. Patrick Cemetery or taking food to homebound or ill people. Brubaker received several cooked meals after breaking her ankle last month, and McGee was “overwhelmed” by members’ generosity after she broke both her arms.
“Any time something needs to be done, we’re glad to help with it,” Brubaker said.
The women sometimes throw a little intrigue into their friendships. Each year, interested members receive a “secret pal” who sends cards on birthdays and anniversaries and prays for the fellow member. At the year’s end, the companions are revealed.
“It’s just a fun group,” McGee said.